Through the years, the New York Giants have done well finding quality undrafted free agents and turning them into key contributors to Super Bowl runs. Rich Seubert, Chase Blackburn and Victor Cruz fit this category, and players like Shaun O’Hara and Antonio Pierce were undrafted players from their original teams who signed in free agency to the Giants.
In recent memory, players like Nick Gates have proven to be vital, yet was glossed over in the 2018 draft. Valuable assets are discovered through undrafted free agency can significantly assist teams in forging a formidable and competitive roster. New York wasn’t very busy, so far, in undrafted free agency, but let’s give a brief overview of the three players the Giants did add to their 90-man-roster.
Brett Heggie, C, Florida
Heggie is a 6-foot-4, 310-pound, interior offensive lineman who has started at center and both guard positions. Versatility is a priority for coach Joe Judge, but I believe Heggie may be a bit limited at guard in the NFL.
The tape also showed a player who wasn’t superior with his lateral movement skills and Heggie’s foot speed is adequate in space. A balanced player who doesn’t lunge or put himself into disadvantageous positions. Range has some question marks which is why center makes the most sense, especially with his processing ability. He’s not overly flexible in his lower half and his mirroring skills in pass protection could be a problem at guard.
Heggie does well in pass protection when he’s looking for work and assisting his guards. He keeps his head on a swivel and one can tell that he has played 2,157 snaps in college. He allowed 9 sacks and 39 pressures at Florida, 20 of which were in 2019 when he was operating at guard.
Heggie displayed an adequate anchor when absorbing contact, sinks his center of gravity and has adequate overall functional strength in pass protection - can struggle with power rush moves. Shows solid upper body strength when helping guards. Does a very good job seeing and expecting twists/stunts. Hands can fit a bit better and would like to see improvements in that area; however, he does a solid job handling counter moves - is much better in a phone booth than in space while pass protecting.
Heggie struggles to vertically displace defensive lineman as a run blocker (nose, 1-technique). Gets low, but lacks lower leg drive, hand location/timing isn’t consistent, and he struggles to alter bigger defensive lineman who are tasked to occupy the A-Gap. Athletic ability (agility, foot-speed, get off) on 1-Technique scoops to the play-side isn’t consistent, but does a solid job on pin-pull concept when tasked to block down.
Heggie does a solid job in ACE blocking situations; is better at handling the transition than climbing and locating at the second level. Can give some pop as the second blocker with his shoulder, but his hands don’t have the type of power one would like to see. Has very good instincts to play the position of center.
Overall, Heggie would need to improve his strength, ability to drive defenders off the football, and his sub-par athletic ability. He is a quick processing center who has his limitations, but is an experienced player who possesses quality football intelligence and awareness. Should earn a practice squad spot and compete with 2020 UDFA Kyle Murphy (who should be more along with his skills and development).
Raymond Johnson III, Edge, Georgia Southern
Johnson was a disruptive force at a smaller level of competition. He was a four-year starter who added more than 40 pounds of muscle to his frame since entering the program; one could say he’s still learning how to adjust to his new body.
EDGE Raymond Johnson, #Giants UDFA out of Georgia Southern is 6’2 260 pounds and he was very productive— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) May 1, 2021
Johnson had 147 pressures, 18 sacks and 108 tackles through 4 seasons
In 2020, he ranked 10th in PRSH, 4th in RunD, and was top ranked in DEF (EDGE) according to @PFF_Giants
Johnson also had 49 2020 pressures, but, as you can see, his testing was abysmal. The film checks out with the lack of elite explosiveness - that’s not Johnson’s game. Johnson routinely would play 4i shade or 5-Technique and would use quick feet (stutter), violent hands, and really good awareness to attack with excellent timing.
Johnson would employ quick double swipes that had power to elicit balance issues with his opponents - did an excellent job attacking these vulnerabilities by getting skinny and keeping his chest clean. I honestly don’t know how translatable those types of wins will be at the next level. Doesn’t win with bend or quality upfield burst. Does have pass rush moves and counter moves - shows good processing on when/how to employ the moves.
Played with good functional strength and would rely on power that may not translate as well to the next level. Leverage starts out low and gets progressively higher as reps materialize, especially if he couldn’t shed or get to his counter moves. Lack of NFL athletic traits may hinder his ability to shed weight and play OLB.
May have to be a 4i or 5-Technique (if the Giants use more Okie fronts). Ability to sustain and anchor down against NFL blockers may pose problems early in his career. Strength is better going forward than it is anchoring down, albeit he didn’t struggle leveraging his gaps at Georgia Southern. Hands have some pop and I do love the violence, but a more consistent center of gravity would be more reassuring with the projection to the next level.
Overall, Johnson may be a future replacement for some of these defensive lineman that have expiring contracts after the season (B.J. Hill, R.J. McIntosh, Danny Shelton, Austin Johnson). Johnson’s going to need some development and will probably be relegated to the practice squad. He has traits that he used well in college that may not translate as easily to the professional game, but he’s still instinctive, has heavy hands, and has some good pop/violence in his game. He’s not very explosive, and won’t bend the edge, but if he continues to add weight onto his frame, he has the potential to be a solid contributor after Year 1.
Jake Burton, OL, UCLA/Baylor
Burton played a significant amount of snaps for UCLA and Baylor. Has positional versatility; played 585 snaps at right guard as a graduate transfer to Baylor in 2020. Before arriving with the Bears, he was a Bruin who played the majority of his snaps at right tackle. Burton is 6-foot-6, 312 pounds, and he possesses adequate athletic ability that probably forces him to be a guard at the next level.
I don’t love Burton’s footwork in space - his range is limited up the pass rushing arc and his lateral agility is adequate at best. Does a good job keeping his body square into blocks and playing with good balance, solid bend, and overall play strength at the point of attack. Hands are quick to engage, when they have to be, yet he still manages to use solid patience in his attack.
Burton earns inside hand placement marginally, yet does a solid job absorbing contact. Shows solid lower body bend (while absorbing contact) for a tall interior offensive lineman while showing the ability to re-sink his hips and not allow his center of gravity to be exploited. Solid overall anchor and posterior strength to absorb while doing an adequate job adjusting his hands after engagement is made. Has enough athletic ability to mirror pass rushers inside and give defenders a hard time earning, and establishing, the half-man relationship.
Burton isn’t a very commanding as a run blocker - pad level can rise a bit through reps which minimizes his solid play strength. Is solid in ACE and DEUCE situations when being the second blocker initiated; as the first, does a solid job transitioning blocks and climbing. When at the second level, his pad level on the move is high and his location ability isn’t great. Can lunge a bit when his feet aren’t quick enough to locate - this is true at the tackle position up the arc as well.
He can do a better job leveraging his hand fits as a run blocker. Lateral movement skills make some reps look sloppy and his technique (framing, positioning, fit, etc) doesn’t always look great. Balance issues are much more on display when he’s on the move and more agile defenders can take advantage of that fact.
Overall, Burton seems to be better taking on contact rather than engaging. His technique gets sloppy as he overcompensates for his adequate athletic ability. He has surrendered 12 sacks and 59 pressures in college, 17 of those pressures from the guard position. Burton may just lack the athleticism to play in the NFL - he has to improve his balance to have a shot at the roster in the coming years.